Episode 24 - Your Cheatin' Heart
This week we dive into the best ways to ruin a book for your readers, the Michael Derrick Hudson pen-name controversy, and using a journal to gather ideas. We also take a look at using Airstory to organize your novel.
Works in Progress
[00:00:32] Mike started working on a flash fiction piece, outlined at 380 words, but got distracted by everything and only wrote 300 actual words. He also did some additional research for Zero Ward.
[00:01:46] John doesn't necessarily prescribe to writer's block, but he has a case of it. Nothing came out.
[00:02:40] Eric continues the rewrite work for Don't Wake Up. Faith, Love and Rust is on a quick break for the moment, but he's still taking down notes for all his current work.
What's happening online
What pretty much ruins a book for you?
[00:03:04] A reddit thread asked what ruins books for a reader. What pretty much ruins a book for you?
When they use the same adjectives (or other words) over and over and over.
Too much foreshadowing. "It was a lovely day, but little did I know I would soon be running for my life"
Romance that lacks any plot relevance.
When it mentions and introduces 30 different characters in the first two pages alone.
Linguistic errors really jar me out of a story.
Mary Sue characters
When they introduce a character, I form a nice mental picture, but then, fucking 200 pages down the line, they mention a really distinct physical feature that gives a big ol' middle finger to my mental image.
Too many rave reviews
Too big of an author photo on the back
"It was just a dream..."
Writing a 10 year old child with the thought processes of an adult.
When the actors who play the characters in the movie version are on the cover
When I can feel the personality of the Author coming through too strongly in more than one character.
Excessive use of cliches.
Books where the protagonist is a writer/novelist.
When the author describes every female character by basically describing their body.
Using incredibly hard to pronounce names and places.
Songs and poems.
As a minority, token minorities. Diversity for the sake of it is dumb.
When the Author does not have the balls to go through with the death of a character just for the sake of fan service.
Seeing James Patterson's name on the cover.
When someone has already circled Waldo on all of the pages.
The Case Of Yi-Fen Chou
The White Pen Name Generator is a satirical site that creates a white person's name for people of color. The generator was made in response to the Case of [Yi Fen Chou]((http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/michael-derrick-hudson-yi-fen-chou-pen-name_55f1a255e4b002d5c078...).
This week, Yi-Fen Chou, author of a poem entitled “The Bees, the Flowers, Jesus, Ancient Tigers, Poseidon, Adam and Eve,” which appeared in Best American Poetry 2015, was revealed to be a nom de plume -- for Michael Derrick Hudson.
Hudson, a white man, has no dearth of privilege in the publishing realm, and using a pen name from a marginalized group only serves to also earn him those few opportunities specifically given to Asian-American writers -- at the cost of undermining actual Asian-American authors, who had far less opportunity than Hudson to start with.
"Hudson exploited one of the few moments in which an editor of color was in a position to give a tiny bit of space to historically marginalized voices -- so that one more white man's voice could be heard."
Hudson’s pose as “Yi-Fen Chou” intrigued Best American Poetry guest editor Sherman Alexie, who has been open about his desire to compile a more diverse anthology for 2015. “Bluntly stated, I was more amenable to the poem because I thought the author was Chinese-American"
When Hudson couldn’t get a poem published in an industry that heavily favors white, male writers, he threw a thoughtlessly chosen Chinese pen name on it to capture the eye of those few editors who do attempt to give due attention to writers of color.
“A white man swimming in privilege (compared to POC in this country) wanted more, and made the calculated and systematic decision to get it at our expense,”
Is it wrong to create a persona to sell a piece of work? Perhaps it would not be if Hudson hadn't used a pseudonym to game a system intended to increase diversity.
[00:11:25] Cheat! It's the only way to get published. In this New Republic post, the author of this article listed some of the ways he's used to "cheat" the slush pile. He used his employer's letterhead to get the attention of a publisher, offered cross-posting of each other's works, and socially engineered the email addresses of people to whom he wanted to submit his work.
Side-stepping the slush pile because of knowing someone isn't necessarily the wrong approach. That is simply networking, but reverse engineering email addresses is more of a short-term solution like paying for iTunes reviews or buying Twitter followers.
The Queens of Crime Fiction
[00:16:55] The Queens of Crime Fiction is a review of women's crime noir fiction of the past. The article struck a nerve for Eric on how women see the internal viewpoint much more than male authors do, and the impact that has on crime noir fiction.
[00:20:22] Mike is reading Pale Queen Rising by A. R. Kahler
John is reading The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne
Eric is reading The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. It dawned on Eric why it's taking him so long - it's written so well that he's taking his time to savor the book.
Tech Focus: Airstory
Airstory is a way to keep track of notes for a book. The site lets you create your cards and keep them in an unorganized "pile". Once the notes are done, they can be dragged and dropped into an ordered outline.
It lets you keep track of your ideas without worrying about categorizing them. Mike uses it much more like a tool for mind mapping, where each card is just a thought.
The export puts your notes out into a simple text format.
Airstory is in beta right now, but they are on-boarding users on a weekly basis.
In Episode 24 we talked about Mitch Hedberg's advice to carry a pen with you always, and John wanted to follow up with that. John has been carrying a Moleskine Cahier in addition to a pen and has captured some thoughts he otherwise would not have. Some of the things John wrote down will probably never be used, but it's the act of observation that is important
The act of observation and writing it down fires off the neurons and "builds the muscles".
John is worried about having too many notebooks, a legitimate fear as his dad had hundreds of notebooks and scraps of paper with writing on them and no organization whatsoever.
Mike was wondering how to search and catalog what's been written in the notebooks. Because it's analog, there's no way to tag the information there.
John's recommendation is to take some time, either when the notebook is full or at the end of the year, and review the notebook from cover to cover. During that review is the time to pull out the ideas, phrases and descriptions and digitize them should they be good enough to use somewhere.
John's final thought was the disappointment he has in getting up and writing down his dreams. Many are very interesting, but because he's woken from a deep sleep it is difficult to wake up and jot down those thoughts before they are gone.
Eric keeps "scribble pads" close by so he can write down thoughts for his stories. He's also starting to use the voice-to-text features on his phone to record memos. He feels the technology is getting really close to being perfect, but one still needs to speak slowly and clearly. It's good enough now compared to the scribbles that pass for his handwriting.
The Livescribe notebook by Moleskine is another option, where the Livescribe pen digitizes your writing.
The winner of the Moleskine contest was Antonin Januska who you can follow on Twitter @AntJanus. Congratulations, Antonin!